Micky Mellon has issued a battlecry to his Fleetwood Town players ahead of tonight’s visit to Darlington.
The Town boss says his troops must be ready to go to war in the Northern Arena if they are to get Saturday’s demoralising home defeat by rock-bottom Eastbourne out of their system.
That was Mellon’s message in a candid team talk yesterday morning as Town picked the bones out of the 1-0 defeat which cost them their place in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off zone.
Ahead of two away trips in five days, Mellon said: “We have hopefully learned the lesson that you get nothing if you don’t try to outbattle your opponent in this league.
“That is what we will be looking to do at Darlington first and foremost. The ability of the players is not in question.
“We were very disappointed on Saturday, when we were nowhere near the levels required to win games in this division. We found out that all games are difficult if you don’t compete from the first whistle .
“We had a discussion on Monday morning and the outcome of that will hopefully be positive and bear fruits at Darlington.”
Another lesson Town will take from Saturday’s defeat is never to switch off in defence at a free-kick ... even if it is taken in the opposition’s half.
Matt Smart spotted keeper Scott Davies off his line to net Eastbourne’s winner from fully 55 yards on Saturday.
Town now know what is to like to be on the receiving end of such a wonder-strike after Jamie Milligan netted one from similar range against Farsley Celtic last season.
And nobody was more embarrassed than Davies, though he remains philosophical about his nightmare moment.
The Town No.1 said: “You have to take your hat off to the lad for having the audacity to try it. Every credit to him. I was obviously on the edge of my box as I would be 99 times out of a hundred in the same situation.
“I was still in conversation with Sean Gregan and Will Haining about where we were holding the line.
“There’s certainly a lesson to learn as I didn’t expect him to hit it. He could try it again countless times and not repeat what he did on Saturday. He managed to pull it off, though, and it worked perfectly for him.
“I’ve watched it on DVD and I’ll probably see it another 25 times yet! From now on I’ll be more aware of the possibility of an early strike but you can’t dwell on things like that and we move on.”
At least Davies won’t be distracted by Haining this evening after his former Morecambe team-mate moved back up the coast yesterday.
Haining’s month-long loan from the League Two club has ended, meaning club captain Steve McNulty is set to return to the heart of the defence tonight. It is one of two changes forced upon Mellon as the injury which forced striker Gareth Seddon out of the action early on Saturday is set to sideline him again.
The manager added: “Haining did well for us and we thank him for his efforts over the past month, but it gives an opportunity to somebody else to the grab jersey and stay in the team.
“It’s the same for whoever comes in for Seddon, who is struggling after a kick on the calf.”
Despite the changes in front of him this evening, Davies remains full of confidence ahead of the trip to Darlington. The former Cardinal Allen pupil has enjoyed a run of 29 consecutive league games since replacing the injured Danny Hurst at Crawley and has conceded just 24 goals.
“Coaches have been saying that once you get your run, your keeping will improve and that’s what’s happening,” he said. “Darlington’s a big club with a fantastic facility, which I saw when I went up last year with Morecambe.
“It can be a strange atmosphere because there’s so much empty space in the stands but I’d much rather play in the bigger arenas.”
And Davies can’t help but dream of playing in some even bigger ones next season if Town can regain the play-off berth they lost to Kidderminster last weekend.
He added: “It’s a massive game for us and a chance to get Saturday out of our system. The play-offs are a big thing for this club and there are a lot of points still to play for. I think we’re the best side in the league on our day. I’ve not booked any holidays yet, so I’ll be delighted to get some extra matches after the league season ends!”
But whatever happens for the rest of the season, Mellon hopes everyone around the club keeps a sense of perspective.
He added: “It has been a great first season for us in the Conference Premier, just blighted by individual errors or a horror show like Saturday’s. We have had disappointing moments and disappointing games like Eastbourne, but remember what the players have done in the previous 34 games.”
Town beat Darlington 1-0 at Highbury on New Year’s Day in what should have been part two of a festive double header.
After tonight’s game, frozen off on Boxing Day, Town head to Newport County on Saturday.
Interviews: DAVID MITCHELL